Anyway, I was happy to not be in charge of a whole soup-to-nuts Thanksgiving meal this year, but the downside of not cooking is that you don't have any leftovers! So as I do every year, I broke down and decided to buy myself a small turkey and roast it this weekend that so I could have sandwiches and my favorite turkey and wild rice soup (recipe follows). The problem is, I made three separate trips to the store, and the smallest I could find was 17 pounds! YIKES! But I figure I can always freeze some and share with my neighbor who's on his own, too. The good thing about not being on a specific turkey-cooking timeline is that you have the luxury of being able to try something more involved. I have brined my turkey before, but this year, I followed the methodology of the man-who-should-have-been-my-husband, Alton Brown. And I must say, that man knows how to romance a bird! It took a couple of days, but it was well worth it.
First of all, after thawing in the fridge for two days, my turkey was still rock hard! So I took a tip from AB and put it in a big bucket filled with cold water, and instead of changing the water every half hour, I left the tap running in the bucket just a trickle, and the convection that the running water creates speeds thawing. It takes about 30 minutes per pound, which sure beats four days in the fridge! In the last few hours of thawing, I boiled the brine and let it cool on the (36-degree) porch. And then that night before bed, I dumped Old Tom into the bucket of cooled brine and iced water, and left him to soak on the porch until morning. The next day, still following AB's method, I cranked the oven up to 500 degrees and roasted that sucker for half an hour, then turned the oven down to 350 for about another 2 1/2 hours, and he was done. It takes a while to be sure, but mostly it's passive time, and it really does yield the juiciest, most flavorful bird. (I don't know why the picture above looks more like ham than turkey. I assure you, it was cooked through and not PINK like that!)
Next, of course, I had to make some stuffing, as Thanksgiving is the STUFFING holiday! In fact, I need the stuffing more than I need the turkey! I prefer a fairly straightforward sausage, celery, onion and sage affair, baked outside the turkey so that it gets crispy around the edges. Yum! That was all I was planning on making just for myself, but those pan drippings taunted me into make some delicious gravy with merlot. And then what was I going to put that gravy on? My turkey was so moist, it didn't need gravy. So naturally, I had to make some mashed potatoes, too. Thanksgiving is one of the few times a year that I can be compelled to make real mashed potatoes, and man, were they good! I cooked the potatoes in the extra turkey stock, then I found a knob of cream cheese (maybe 3-4 T) in the door of the fridge and threw that in there along with some butter and evaporated milk and just a dash of granulated garlic, and salt and pepper, of course. Outstanding!
Finally, like everyone else, I could walk around all weekend, displaying the pronounced "food baby" distending my pants, then collapse into a tryptophan-laced coma. Good times, good times. And now...back to work tomorrow morning. God help me. Two more weeks. And when it's over, then I will be truly thankful!Turkey Wild Rice Soup
(Source: Taste of Home Magazine)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or turkey broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups half-and-half or cream
2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large kettle or Dutch oven, saute onion, celery and carrots in butter until onion is transparent. Reduce heat. Blend in flour and cook until bubbly. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; boil for one minute. Reduce heat; add wild rice, cream, turkey, parsley, salt and pepper; simmer for 20 minutes. Yield: 10-12 servings (about three quarts).